Radio by the Numbers

This post on the Radio Ink website highlights one of the big problems associated with the use of Arbitron by non-commercial as well as commercial radio stations — particularly among the consolidators (Clear Channel, Emmis, NPR):

Here’s one quote from a GM “I could go on for days about how radio is getting screwed by Arbitron’s PPM. We’ve become a reach  medium who programs to the meter measurement and not to listeners or to help clients with marketing issues. The most repulsive aspect is the mediocrity it has caused, meaning all formats sound the same. Very sad. I loved this industry but now we are more of a commodity than a good, tight place that listeners want to go to — to feel good and for our clients to reach those targets.” Another told us “PPM says  you are a ‘listener’ if you are exposed to the radio in a cab while on your cell phone for 5 minutes in a week  even if you didn’t hear the  station and you don’t even like it”

As usual, the comments produced some interesting viewpoints:

Mark Ramsey posted some video this week discussing PPM use. It shows how some PPM families . . . in order to keep the hefty remuneration they receive . . . carried the PPM of younger family members who weren’t wearing them. It told of 2 families who tied their PPMs to a ceiling fan to keep them moving! It told of heavy radio listeners who never even considered putting on their PPM until they left the house, missing all of their early morning at home listening. The PPM is great in theory, but. . . .
Barryob

When you sell for a station that has no “numbers” because it’s too new (as I have), you develop some great arguments as to why Arbitron ratings might not be the best way to gauge a station’s value. Of course, any intelligent person can argue both sides, but these were mine, and I owned them:

  1. “It seems like the only people who have time to participate in Arbitron surveys are the unemployed and retired people; everyone else is too busy. Are these your primary demographics?”
  2. “How many people do you know who would actually carry a PPM around with them everywhere they went? Would you? I think it takes a special kind of quirky person to do that—I always wondered—do they really represent the general population?”
  3. “I remember I got a dollar in the mail and a laundry list of stuff to do when I was a busy professional in another industry. Since throwing money in the trash is counterproductive (and maybe even illegal), I remember I kept the dollar, but threw the rest of the stuff away.”
  4. “Do the busy people you know have time to participate in stuff like this? (shut up and wait for a response) “Hmm . . . I know what you mean. Are most of your customers like that?”
  5. “Seems like the fox is guarding the hen house on THOSE numbers. How many of your customers listen to classic rock? You know, our play list is 1500 songs deep. You’ve heard our morning show, right?”
  6. “You know, stations that use Arbitron have to pay a very, very hefty fee to use their system. I always wonder—do those numbers follow the money?”
  7. “Arbitron is first and foremost a business. They’re a publicly traded firm on the New York Stock Exchange; their symbol is ARB. They’re definitely in business to make money—and they cater to large corporate entities willing to pay through the nose for ammo to give to their sales reps. We refuse to give them money, or participate in their process. Have you listened to our morning show?”

—Will Baumann

Anyone who has ever been to Arbitron and looked at the diaries with their own eyes, and then crunched for themselves how survey results are calculated, knows that Arbitron is an unregulated scam. How can a private company which has monopolized BILLIONS of dollars continue the shellgame? PPM.
— Bryan

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